Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bibliophile: New York, New York

First, the answer everyone's dying to hear (I assume) to the question no one's bothered to ask: what's happened to Bibliophile?  Well, I went to talk to librarian at the information desk, and asked her why the library online system stopped being updated.  This process turned out to be slightly more onerous than I had expected, as I had to repeatedly, patiently, explain that no, I was not asking whether we had an online new books section.  I already knew the answer to that one.    Finally, we were on the same page, and she made some phone calls.  Then I got the bad news.  For the past two years, our library had been in the process of shifting from one online system to another.  We had finally reached the point in the process where the library had decided to disable the new items feature in the old system.  The problem was, the new items feature in the new system wasn't ready yet.  The librarian told me to keep checking back, because it was sure to be up eventually.

I sulked for a few days, and came to a conclusion: if my library wasn't going to offer the services I needed right when I wanted them, I'd find a different library.  (I'm going to be a great boyfriend.)  So Bibliophile is going on the road; we'll still do our thing every week, but now, it'll be done anywhere there's an online library index with a new items tab.  Hurrah.  I'll put an "H" next to the items that my library has as well, for anyone from the area who actually uses this site to pick up interesting books.

First stop: York University.  If you have the time, take a look at the York University New Books tab. First, it's broken up into labelled sections, so you know exactly which parts have which books.  Then, there's a handy number for each section, noting how many new books it has.  And to top it all off, every section and subsection has an RSS feed, so you can be informed whenever it gets a new book.

Meanwhile, my library has no  new items tab at all.  Sigh.  Let's get moving, shall we?  One advantage my library system has over this one is that it provides a sum total; here, adding is a tedious process, and yields 1756 new books.  That's not as bad as it sounds, actually; there's a lot of overlap between the books listed for a section and the sum of the books listed in its subsection (ie., a book is listed for G and for GV).  It's not a total overlap, though, so I still have to look at both separately.  That's actually a real pain; this is clearly a list designed to be viewed in small sections rather than as a whole.

First up is York's lengthy new songs list.  There are a lot of things with ukelele accompaniment.  This piece--"Misery is a Butterfly," by Blonde Redhead--is sadly without a ukelele, but it's more or less representative of the songs on offer here.

Tecumseh & Brock : the War of 1812 / James Laxer. 
I love reading about the War of 1812, because it's a case where the victors didn't write the history books, simply because there was no definitive winner.  So what we get is a bunch of history books declaring the United States won, a bunch declaring Canada won, a bunch declaring no one won, and one particularly odd book declaring it was a victory for Luxemburg.  Laxer is taking a different approach altogether, and looking at the war in terms of what it meant for Aboriginal history, studying the leader of the Native Confederacy Tecumseh and his relationship with Major-General Brock of the British Empire.

The locavore's dilemma : in praise of the 10,000-mile diet / Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu. 
This comes from the section H, Sociology.  The title's obviously an imitation of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is a very good book except for the passages where Pollan gets very defensive about his carnivorous inclinations.   This book is looking at current trends supporting local food distribution, and, controversially, they argue that it's not the system of choice.  The global food market, argue Descrochers and Shimizu, is nutritionally superior, has evolved through rigorous screening and constant competition, and would be just fine, if we could get past those pesty subsidies.  Frankly, this sounds a bit like Big Food propaganda, and I put on my skeptic's hat whenever I see anyone trying to seriously argue that Darwinian evolution works as a metaphor for the free market, because it shows a basic misunderstanding of both.  On the other hand, the local alternative is clearly can't feed everybody, so arguments for improving the global system are worth hearing.

York seems to get a lot of Spanish and French titles.  It makes my job easier, since I can just skip by them, but I wanted to take a moment to appreciate the multiculturalism, all the same.

Racism on the Internet / Yaman Akdeniz.
Our library also tends not to expand our Law section very frequently, so York's commitment to this genre is interesting to me.  Akdeniz looks at the regulatory rules in place to monitor racism on the Internet.  I didn't know there were any (youtube comment threads seem to support that lack), but I'll try anything once.  The book is aimed at discussing what states can do, but also has a national focus, looking at cases in Germany, Canada, Australia, and France, and concluding that all these disputes demonstrate the limitations of nations when it comes to policing online activity.  And who knows?  After we finish with racism on the Internet, maybe we can deal with homophobia and mysogyny.

 Workplace mobbing in academe : reports from twenty universities / edited by Kenneth Westhues.
Mobbing in this case refers, essentially, to bullying, but given the stigma surrounding that phrase (that it denotes childishness, for example), I can understand why the editor went with "mobbing" instead.  You might think that people who have dedicated their careers to the promotion of learning would, by training and nature, be open-minded in their approach to others.  You would be thinking wrong.  Academia tends to attract a lot of high pressure personalities, people who are very driven, and very forward.  Mix this with the need to defend your area of study and your approach in order to protect your livelihood, and you've got some volatile situations.  Westhues' book.  It's serious, because it prevents people from speaking out against injustices, on the grounds that they don't want to be ganged up on or blacklisted.  This book has narratives and case studies on the subject, as well as methods for prevention and reconciliation.  H.

The duration of a kiss / Peter Wells. 
Oh, I like that title.  The book is a series of stories about film-making by, uh, film maker Peter Wells, he of a series of New Zealand indie flicks.  The book also has a heavy focus on AIDs, homosexual relationships, and, I'm told, "emotional intensity."  The duration of a kiss, in case you're wondering, is measured in pecks.  Heh.

...And we're done.  Huh.  That went fast.  Well, see you next week.  And if there's any university library you're dying to see reviewed, let me know.

Later Days. 

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